Enter “plumber” in the search box on Facebook and you may get an out of town plumber or the local plumbers union or a fan page for plumber’s crack in the results, not what you want when the water is bubbling up through the floorboards. “Local search” on Facebook has really meant “ask your Facebook friends for a plumber recommendation.”

This week the ‘Book confirmed that it’s testing real local search, sending social media industry watchers to speculate that it’s gunning for Yelp, Google or local directories. No matter the agenda, hey, it’s Facebook, with 894 million users every day on mobile phones—if you’re a local business, you need to pay some serious attention.

You can see the test site—only on desktop, not the mobile app–by going to a local business page and clicking the category name under the business name, say “Plumber”. You’ll arrive at a page with the headline “Best Plumbers in [Your Town Name]” (like this) and see a directory of a few plumbers, displaying their star ratings and some review excerpts. The listings link to the Facebook Pages of the businesses. For now, the search results pages seem like a work in progress, with results a bit random.

This page is a part of a new Professional Services section of Facebook. The home page says “Find local businesses with the best Facebook reviews and ratings” on top of an honest to gosh local search box, with slots for category name and city name. Below that are local directory links like Automotive Repair, Garden Center, Hair Salon, though if you start typing in the category slot, many more category titles appear.

This local search function joins two discovery functions (1) Facebook Places, a directory of recommended places and businesses in a city, based on where friends in your Facebook network have checked in, Liked or reviewed, as well as ratings and reviews from other Facebook users and (2) Nearby Places on the mobile app. Also, Facebook recently expanded its general site-wide search to cover all public posts, not just posts from a user’s network. . And it made two-way communication for customer service a lot easier on business Pages (see Facebook Wants to Be Your Customer Service Center).

How these pieces will fit together is TBD. All we know for sure is that Facebook has enormous power to understand what you like, what your friends like and what people like you and your friends like, and next will understand how all of you search. This is an Imperial Star Destroyer you want to climb aboard.

So do these two things now:

  1. Make sure your business’s Facebook Page has all its fingers and toes, namely, that it’s listed as a Local Business with an accurate address, category and other basic info (see the instructions). In your Page settings, select to have a map, check-ins and reviews display (see the instructions). Reviews won’t actually display until someone posts one. You should also set your notifications so Facebook pings you when a new review appears (instructions).
  1. Get serious about star ratings and reviews on Facebook. They already influence the algorithm that determines if your posts will be displayed on your followers’ News Feeds and will surely influence your position on the new local businesses search. If a Facebook user posts a compliment on your Page, thank them and ask for a review. For more ideas, study these 5 Quick Tips to Getting More Online Reviews.